Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hairy Tales

We are our hair.

Long hair on a woman in India is now a rare sight. And rarity can give things status. Thus, women with long hair in India were considered beautiful, pious, and good wife-material. Females of all ages spent ages on their hair: washing it, drying it, combing it, delousing it, oiling it and adorning it. Soap nuts, sheekakai and other messy natural products were used to wash hair.

Up to the 70s, at least, shampoo was considered a wasteful luxury. The natural products were too time consuming as city life styles began to take over and many used a brown soap which was also used for washing clothes.

And then life began to get very busy indeed. Today everybody uses shampoo, from the very poor up to the filthy rich. And the length of hair has considerably shortened.

But let's not leave the men out of this hairy tale. Long haired lovers sprouted all over, not necessarily from Liverpool alone. In the 60s and into the 70s, young men drove their parents to despair with their shoulder length tresses. At school, when I was a young lady, there was this one young man who played a guitar in a band and had long glossy hair. I'd hang out with one of his kid brothers and so I once got a glimpse of the wannabe rock star at his home: he had his hair tied in a towel very much like what you saw in some foreign magazine for the ladies. Today, it's a sign of being arty farty.

On the other hand, long hair has long been a trademark of the Sadhu.

To cut a long tale short, let's go from all that hair to none.

Baldness and virility. Come to think of it, I've rarely seen a poor man bald. Are the poor less virile?

Villains in films are frequently bald.

Many societies shave a person's head to shame them. High caste widows had to be shorn.

And then the Indian priest is somewhat shorn, and the monk too. No hair symbolises piety.

From the length and lack of hair, let's move on to the straight and curly and wavy. I get the impression that, much like the case with the whitening creams, straight hair sets a standard in what is the appropriate way for hair to be.

Mine is rather wavy and my mom often said it's a sign of a bad temper. Ages later, in the 2000s, every hair dresser I visited seemed to want to "relax" my hair.

But then there's the perm, the Afro and all those curls!

It's possible that an "outstanding" head of hair intimidates. 

And then there's dreadlocks and the matted hair of the sadhus. Symbols of renunciation. 

Hair grows. Hair is cut. And then there's the other hair. For some it's a daily struggle shaving, plucking, depilation and laser removal.

And what about colour? Once upon a time, hair colour went hand in hand with a person's race.  Today, you can have almost any colour hair you like.

I've noted that people in the highest reaches of power rarely dye their white hair. So white hair might give a person an air of authority. 

I'd love to hair, sorry, hear your take. 
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